OUTGOING United Nations (UN) resident coordinator, Mr Bishow Parajuli has expressed concern over increased cases of new HIV infections in girls and youths in Zimbabwe at a time when the country was witnessing a reduction in infections amongst other groups.
By Michael Gwarisa
According to the UNAIDS: HIV and Women report released early this year, Zimbabwe has 780 000 young girls infected with HIV.
Briefing a Media Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday, Mr Parajuli said there was need for mobilisation of resources towards improving treatment and access to HIV prevention for the young population if the country is to address the rising burden.
We still have HIV issues, youths are being infected and more girls are being infected as well. I think the fundamental gains Zimbabwe has made on HIV and AIDS issue is eliminating the stigma and the whole issue of treatment and use of appropriate prevention measures be it condoms, abstinence etc.
“It is important to invest in the prevention measures. There should be a huge effort to educate the young generation. Mind it, a lot of the young generation may not be aware of some of these things and they are misguided and they up having these new infections,” said Mr Parajuli.
He added that economic challenges were among some of the major factors driving girls and young people into risky sexual behavior hence the need for safety nets to protect the young people from falling into the HIV infection trap.
“Sometimes when you have poverty, hunger and economic challenges, some people are forced to take steps which can put them at risk of new infections. Protecting them, safeguarding them and informing them to be aware is really important.
“As the UN we are looking to all these important steps to work with government including on the issue of policies, corruption and others. We have offered our support together with various development partners to ensure Zimbabwe achieves its goals.”
In 2015, 17% of young women aged 15-19 in Zimbabwe reported having had sex with a man 10 years older in the past 12 months and this culture has contributed heavily to new infections in young girls.
Meanwhile, the forthcoming International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is set to also deliberate on the unfinished business of new growing cases of HIV infections in young adolescent girls and young women.
In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Plenary Commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ICPD, UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem said there was need to look at stories of indigenous, rural and marginalized communities; of Afro-descendants; of those living with disabilities, or HIV; of young people; of refugees, of all who face barriers to life-saving services and information.